Pablo Picasso was a vampire.
The famed artist had a talent and reputation for sucking energy from the people he spent time with, then using that energy back in his studio to paint all those famous images I don’t like (except for The Old Guitarist. That painting is rad).
Picasso was a taker. And, wrote Kleon, most people would deal with it because they liked hanging out with a famous guy.
But one man was unwilling to tolerate Picasso’s energy-draining behavior—a sculptor named Constantin Brancusi.
“Brancusi hailed from the Carpathian Mountains, and he knew a vampire when he saw one,” Kleon wrote. “He was not going to have his energy or the fruits of his energy juiced by Picasso, so he refused to have anything to do with him.
“Brancusi practiced what I call The Vampire Test.”
But the Blood Tastes Good
It feels so good to get.
Love. Attention. Sex. Money. Help. Whatever.
We crave these things on a case-by-case basis. I had to stop reading Kleon’s book at that point. I really wanted to think about this. Because it made me nervous.
Am I a vampire?
Two things happened after my wife left:
- I reached out to people and latched onto friends and family members because I needed them. But then I went into a reclusive cocoon and disconnected (not permanently!) with so many of those people who were there for me during those preliminary freak-out moments.
- I started writing here. And used you. Because so many you give, give, give.
You read. You care. You provide feedback.
More often than not, it’s the nicest stuff anyone has ever said to me not counting my mom and grandma who are both inexplicably kind and loving to me.
But what do I give you?
There are dozens of you who peek in on what I’m saying here. You read. You “like.” You comment.
You give more than I give. Because I’m such a self-centered person sometimes. You need to know that I feel it. That I know it. The inequity. I know you give more to me than I give to you.
That, sometimes, my behavior amounts to me sucking your blood.
I do it for the same reasons we don’t pick up the phone enough to call our friends and family members. For the same reasons we have those conversations with people over and over again: “We should talk more! Let’s go have a drink sometime! I just get so busy! You know how it is!” And we all nod our heads, because we all do know how it is.
But it doesn’t have to be. We can choose to give more.
I’m such a wretched communicator with people, which is so stupid because I always feel better WHEN I’m connected to others.
And I always feel better when I give more than I take.
Give More Than You Take
I love this idea. I say it a lot. Usually, I’m thinking about it in the context of a marriage as I still spend every day nearly a full year later thinking about all the ways I did marriage wrong.
Give more than you take.
It applies to all of our friendships. It applies to charity. It applies to the energy we give to our families. Our employers. Our various commitments and extracurricular activities and hobbies and passions.
Give more than you take.
You want to make your relationship work with the person you love?
This idea alone can save you. But it will always take both parties.
One half of the couple can grow as an individual learning to give more than he or she takes. But that’s not enough for marriage.
If both partners can give more than they take?
Spend a lifetime out-giving one another?
That’s what the baseline ingredients for forever look like.
Let the Right Ones In
“It’s a simple way to know who you should let in and out of your life,” Kleon wrote of The Vampire Test. “If, after hanging out with someone you feel worn out and depleted, that person is a vampire. If, after hanging out with someone you still feel full of energy, that person is not a vampire.”
“Of course, The Vampire Test works on many things in our lives, not just people—you can apply it to jobs, hobbies, places, etc.
“Vampires cannot be cured. Should you find yourself in the presence of a vampire, be like Brancusi, and banish it from your life forever.”
James Altucher practices this very same philosophy—surrounding himself with people who lift him up and make him feel loved, and distancing himself from people who do the opposite.
It has been life changing, he said.
I do not want to be a vampire in your life. And I pray that I am not.
I hope you will think about incorporating The Vampire Test, and spending more time with people and doing things that make your life better, and spending less time with people and doing things that make it worse.
Even if one of those things is me. Because you deserve happiness.
And to achieve it we must only let the right ones in.